Keysville gets all-clear on water

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Five months following complaints from merchants and homeowners, Keysville Town Mayor says the municipality’s water is “crystal clear.”

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Drinking Water recently released its report of the sanitary survey of the Town of Keysville waterworks that was conducted on April 24. “Progress has been made in the operation of the water treatment plant and distribution,” said Harry M. Hughes, VDH District Engineer in the report.

Last fall town officials began receiving complaints of foul tasting and muddy water initially from residents with several business owners following but according to the Keysville’s Water Plant Executive Chief Officer, Clay Samples; the problem started before then.

Clay Samples, Keysville’s Water Plant executive chief officer, looks over the recent sanitary survey report from the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water.

“The town was already receiving violations and were already getting muddy water complaints regularly,” said Samples. “The town was not happy with the way things were … they had been receiving notices of violations years prior.”

Due to this, the town hired Samples who owns and operates Samples Water Monitoring in September 2018 to oversee and manage the operations of Keysville’s water plant.

The town water supply is drawn from Spring Creek Impoundment which is a reservoir that Samples says was built in the ‘60s. The town of Keysville and has roughly 300 water connections.

It was November 2018 when according to Samples the town began receiving isolated complaints about water issues. “We had two back to back hurricanes… Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael that created the server and prolonged taste and odor issues the town was dealing with,” explained Samples. “The problem was actually building up over time.”

“When the complaints first started, the town and the mayor did reach out to me and asked if we noticed anything at the plant. At the time we could not detect anything at the plant. It was building up in time that’s why it was isolated events, and this person would have bad water and this person would not, and that is also why when we would go out to investigate we could not detect it nor could that homeowner,” Samples explained. “So, that’s why residents were seeing and tasting good water one day and bad the next and some people were having no problems.”

To fix the issues, Samples and his team began using Powder Activated Carbon (PAC), which is a chemical that is used to absorb the tastes and odor compounds out of the water.

According to Samples, it took longer to get the towns water issues straight because reprogramming was needed at the water plant to increase the PAC levels. “We had to keep increasing the levels, so that took time,” he said. “Every time we made an adjustment, we had to wait two weeks to see the results homeowners and businesses were getting.”

Samples went on to say that even though the water coming out of the plant was clear and tested well, it would take time to reach individual homes and businesses.

A buildings pipe, which carries the water into the home and or business, can also affect the outcome of an individual’s water taste, color, and smell even if the water plants water is clear. “This was another reason we saw problems,” Samples added. “Also, unfortunately, there is not a test we can do for taste, that is a personal preference.”

Fast-forward to April’s inspection by the VDH and The Town of Keysville has passed all necessary testing.
The following comments were noted by the VDH inspection: Significant improvement has been experienced by the water system as the result of the new operational staff at the water treatment plant. There has been no disinfection byproduct violation since the last sanitary survey.
The cross connection control program is significantly improved and should continue to be brought up to date with the testing and record keeping. A finished water meter has also been installed.

The inspection notes also asked for the town to continue to pursue the resolution of the cause of the significant amount of air bubbles experienced during backwash of the filters and to address the issue of the spalling concrete in the raw water lagoon.

The distribution system flushing recently completed by the Town of Keysville was applauded by the VDH and noted as a vital part of the process of minimizing disinfection byproducts. “The significant water quality issues which occurred during the recent unidirectional flushing was unfortunate, and a clear indicator the previous flushing efforts are inadequate,” the report cited.

With the past few months of improvements taking place at the towns water treatment plant that is just the beginning for Keysville. One turnaround for the town is that according to Samples and Morris the municipality is hoping to bring wells back online as early as the beginning of 2020. “We’re doing good things here,” said Mayor Morris. “It’s a huge turn around in Keysville.”